This is not your average grilled cheese sandwich and soup of the day; as served up at Ruth and Dean, a tiny luncheonette on Douglas Street. Photo by Allan Reid

This is not your average grilled cheese sandwich and soup of the day; as served up at Ruth and Dean, a tiny luncheonette on Douglas Street. Photo by Allan Reid

ON FOOD: Tiny dinette offering full cheesy goodness

Ruth and Dean impress Monday reviewer Allan Reid with their culinary creativity

Regular readers of this column will have come to expect reviews of restaurants that are outstanding in some way.

At La Petite Dakar, it was owner Bintou and her infectious passion for the Senegalese food of her childhood. (Sad to say she has had to close her doors.) At Wheelies Motorcycle Café, it remains the renegade biker ambiance. At Sült Pierogi Bar and at Chuck’s Burger Bar, it is the re-creation of something far too common in a profusion of uncommon ways. And of course, it is always about local restaurateurs who share a passion for flavourful food. It seems to me this passion often expresses itself best in the tiniest places.

Enter Ruth and Dean.That’s Susannah Ruth Bryan and Robert Dean Smith, a husband-and-wife team who launched Ruth and Dean in Vancouver, but have since moved here. The place is not as wide as two Smart cars with their bumpers touching. It has five tables, one of which sits four, the rest sit only two. Its sparse menu, written with black marker on a roll of craft paper that hangs on the wall, can be read easily from all 13 seats, and can be easily rewritten as needed to accommodate variances of price, quality and availability of ingredients. On the day of my visit there were only six options.

The window sign identifies Ruth and Dean as a “Luncheonette + Baked Goods.” Luncheonette perhaps because it offers only a late breakfast and lunch service (Tuesday to Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., weekends 9 a.m.-3 p.m., closed Mondays). Or maybe because all of its offerings can be quickly prepared and easily carried away by office workers and retail staff on their lunch breaks. The “Baked goods” need no better description than the photo attached.

To this sign on the window should probably be added, “+ Passion.”

Take my grilled cheese sandwich. It is not easy to turn something commonplace into something that deserves a magazine article in its honour. This was far from the processed cheese on Wonder Bread that I grew up with.

Dean placed oodles of gooey mozzarella and parmesan between two slices of coarse brown multigrain bread, but had he stopped there, it would still be only an upgraded sandwich. So he added small amounts of roasted sweet potato, sautéed kale, bacon and a pear chutney. Despite these additions, this sandwich oozes cheese, but it boasts an innovative complex of complimentary flavours that lift it onto a whole new plane of deliciousness.

It came served with the soup of the day, which was a creamy roasted cauliflower drizzled with olive oil and topped with a cluster of whole wheat croutons and a sprinkling of fresh mixed herbs. If I must complain, it will not be to say that the soup was too hot. It was, but soup cools. Rather, it was my cappuccino that was too cool.

With so few places to sit, and the lunch rush forming before the order counter, I hastened to be on my way, but I will return.

Ruth and Dean

1310 Douglas Street

778-265-6060

ruthanddean.com

Restaurant review

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future

Royal BC Museum dives into the world of orcas with upcoming feature exhibition

Frank Ludwig in a forklift with his long hair during Trooper’s heyday. (Photo submitted)
Humble Island beginnings blossomed into storied career for Trooper keyboardist

Frank Ludwig got his start as a boy pumping the organ in a tiny downtown Chemainus church

Joan Miller with the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission says there’s much room for optimism in the region rebounding from COVID-19 and is excited about what the future holds for the region. Black Press File Photo
North Island film industry optimistic about post-COVID rebound

Interest in filming here is still high, according to film commission, once things open back up

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, has been filming in Langford and Colwood over the past two weeks. On April 7, filming will take place on the east side of the Esquimalt Lagoon. (Black Press Media file)
Netflix series ‘Maid’ filming in Colwood

10-episode Warner Bros. production filmed exclusively in Greater Victoria

Victoria mural artists Joshua Lundrigan (from left) and Paul Archer join Rob Chyzowski, co-owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner in front of an Archer-designed mural that went up on Thursday at the Inner Harbour restaurant. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Positivity rules with new outdoor mural from Victoria artist

Paul Archer teams with Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner for patio project

Author Eden Robinson poses for a portrait during an interview in Toronto, Wednesday, May 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Trickster trilogy author Eden Robinson hosts online conversation and reading

Haisla and Heiltsuk will join fans in event hosted by Vancouver Island Regional Library

Nanaimo author Lawrence Winkler’s latest book is ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa.’ (Bulletin file photo/supplied)
Nanaimo author wraps up trilogy following ‘antihero’ Island doctor

Lawrence Winkler presents ‘The Last Casebook of Doctor Sababa’

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Dorothy Sevcov’s exhibition ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ is on display at Art 10 Gallery until the end of the month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Experimental paintings now on exhibit at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Dorothy Sevcov’s ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ on display through April

Courtenay artist Christine Boyer presents Alongside My Path: Native Wildflowers of Canada at Gallery Merrick from April 9 to 23. (Photo courtesy Christine Boyer)
Island painter shows off the wildflowers of Western Canada in first solo show

Courtenay’s Christine Boyer presents floral exhibit at Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library librarian April Ripley led the effort to create a Vancouver Island poetry booklet in recognition of National Poetry Month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library publishes booklet for National Poetry Month

Collection features winners of ‘Poem in your Pocket’ contest

SENCOTEN language revitalizationist and filmmaker Renee Sampson’s short film, Bringing Our Language Back to LIfe, shows online during the Reel 2 Real International Youth Film Festival, April 14-23. (Photo courtesy Wapikoni)
SENCOTEN language featured in short film created on Saanich Peninsula

Renee Sampson film highlights importance of passing on traditional languages to youth

The area surrounding the Chemainus Rotary Club’s bunker door is one of the new surfaces that will feature a mural. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Up to three new murals coming to Chemainus

Project will be coordinated between the Rotary Club and Festival of Murals Society

Most Read